UK Release Date: 31st October 2018
Runtime: 104 minutes
Director: Crispian Mills
Writer: Crispian Mills, Henry Fitzherbert
Starring: Finn Cole, Hermione Corfield, Asa Butterfield, Michael Sheen, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Tom Rhys-Harries, Jo Hartley, Margot Robbie
Synopsis: A controversial fracking operation seems to awaken a race of monsters living beneath a snooty boarding school, threatening teachers and pupils alike.
In the new British horror-comedy Slaughterhouse Rulez, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost share maybe one or two scenes together and Pegg wields a cricket bat – just for a moment. But nobody told the marketing team that, because every trailer for the film has leaned heavily on the presence of one of British comedy cinema’s most brilliant double acts. Their roles in this film from Crispian Mills, who previously directed Pegg in the underrated A Fantastic Fear of Everything, are minimal and indeed their main involvement is behind the camera as producers through their new company Stolen Picture.
Away from the Pegg and Frost elephant in the room, Mills has delivered another wildly idiosyncratic and unusual film, this time drawing on his own experience of bouncing between state and private schools, never really belonging in either world. His analogue is Don (Finn Cole), who we meet being dropped off at the posh Slaughterhouse boarding school by his mother (Jo Hartley). With the not entirely comforting question of “what are they gonna do – eat you alive?” she sends her son into what turns out to be something of a lion’s den.
It quickly transpires that Michael Sheen‘s headteacher and Simon Pegg‘s housemaster have very little control over the establishment, with discipline essentially outsourced to the frighteningly Aryan upper sixth boy Clegg (Tom Rhys-Harries). Meanwhile, Don buddies up with his rebellious roommate Willoughby (Asa Butterfield) and upper sixth girl Clemsie (Hermione Corfield), which means they stick together when the activities of a nearby fracking site begin to unleash malevolent beasts.
There’s an awful lot of plot to get through in Slaughterhouse Rulez – not least a strange storyline that seems to exist only to give Margot Robbie a cameo – but not nearly enough energy to sustain it. Mills’s film has a lot of fun when it’s pricking the pomposity of British boarding schools or critiquing the chummy connection between Sheen’s wonderfully hammy head and the boss of the fracking company he is allowing to drill in the grounds of his school. All of the cast are doing their best ‘Biggus Dickus’ accents and there’s a lot of fun to be had with this material.
It’s on shakier ground, though, with its actual storytelling. The structure of the plot is all over the place and it’s tough to get all that invested in any of these characters, especially when it’s seldom clear what’s actually happening as conspiracy is wrapped in conspiracy. Finn Cole fares the best in his leading role, especially when he’s allowed to exploit his chemistry with the equally engaging Corfield. Given better material, they could really have sparked.
The overriding feeling when the credits roll on Slaughterhouse Rulez is one of missed opportunities. There are isolated moments of wacky fun in the action sequences and there are a handful of decent gags, but it all feels a little flat and colourless. It feels like a facile point to make, but this film really could’ve done with someone like Edgar Wright at the helm. He could’ve provided just the burst of comic kinetic energy that it needs.
Pop or Poop?
There’s fun to be had in Slaughterhouse Rulez, for sure, and it seems clear that Crispian Mills has a really great film in him. However, horror-comedy is a very tricky beast to execute well and this film doesn’t really have enough of either half to add up to a satisfying whole.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.